Event Review

REVIEW: Wiggle Etape Cymru 2014

by Sean Lacey

GB Flag

Date: Sunday 14th September
Distances: 85 miles, 9000 feet of climbing  
Entry fee: £62  
Start: Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, Wrexham  
Catering: Bar / café at the racecourse (at cost)  
Feed stops: 4   
Participants: c.2200  
Timing: Chip sticker attached to helmet, results sent by text message after the event and on the website by the end of the day  
Signs: Large yellow signs with black text / arrows  
Roads: Completely closed to traffic, variable road surfaces through stunning Welsh countryside and plenty of challenging climbing  
Photos: www.sportcam.net  
Goody bag:  Finishers medal, free samples in a Wiggle bag 
Facilities: Plenty of free parking on site, Motorcycle outriders, neutral support and broom wagon, massage and vendors in the event village  

After last year's extremely successful event, the Etape Cymru has settled into place as one of Wales' finest cycling events. Having ridden other editions I didn't need convincing to give it another go as the route, although changed slightly this year to ease some of the road closure issues of previous years, still contained the key mix of climbs and scenery it has become known for. 

With an extremely early start (4am on my part), the drive to the HQ at Bangor-on-Dee racecourse was easy enough with the only others on the road those also riding the event. The racecourse (as indeed most racecourses) makes for a great HQ with plenty of free parking, and various buildings offering numerous facilities and shelter if the weather is bad. Today that wouldn't be an issue though, with warm temperatures, occasional sunshine and a distinct lack of the cyclist's worst enemy - wind. 

Racecourse HQ 

Gareth Thomas, centre of attention  

Having been asked to ride out with the event's ambassador, Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, I would go in the first wave of riders; and it would have been rude to refuse, right? Besides, I'm usually ready within two minutes of stepping out of the car. With local TV and radio keeping Gareth busy right up until the word go, we hit the road a little after the scheduled start time, but eventually headed out on to the quiet, and of course completely traffic free roads of Bangor-on-Dee.  

We enjoyed a few flat miles to warm up with before the first of the big climbs came over the Shelf and Panorama heading west, with the slight breeze behind us. The first feed station came 12 miles in on the climb up to Panorama, and true to form with Human Race, it was excellent - they offer some of the best feeds I've come across, with a huge variety of treats from jelly babies to pretzels to crisps and cake, along with Power Bar energy products, energy drink and plain old water. Not forgetting the coup-de-grace: salted new potatoes. I could survive any ride on those things.  

(Image: Human Race)

(Image: Human Race)

Despite the massive selection, a quick top up and off up the remainder of the climb. Always a challenging couple of climbs, Panorama decided to play dirty though and at 30+mph, leave me with a fast deflating rear tyre. The descent is great, but the narrow strip of tarmac cut into the hillside does mean a fair bit of rock fall debris, which today I didn't avoid quite enough of. But, with such spectacular views to accompany the repair it wasn't too much of a bind.  

Underway once more and the descent completed without further drama we skirted Llangollen onto the foot of the feature climb (not the toughest mind you), complete as usual with a timed ascent and a Festina watch up for grabs for the fastest. No chance of that here, and for a change the lack of wind made it quite pleasurable if I'm honest. Straight over the top and into the fast drop down, onto rolling terrain that gave time for recovery. 

Getting underway


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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 94.4%